My Dear Lucy – I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales […] But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.– C.S. Lewis to his Goddaughter Lucy Barfield, who inspired the character Lucy in the Narnia series
I love fairytales. But I haven’t always. Perhaps I, like Lucy Barfield, briefly outgrew them during my coming of age only to arrive back to them now. I can appreciate mental escape as much now as I did when I was a child, curling up with Laura Ingalls Wilder or Ann M. Martin.
A few months back, the highly regarded scientist and author Stephen Hawking had this to say about the afterlife:
I regard the brain as a computer that will shut down when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers. That is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
When I initially heard this quote, I am sorry to say that it left me distressed. While it is undeniable that Hawking is a genius, my first thought was – how can anyone be so sure of anything in this world? Definitely that is his belief for him, and I’m sure he is basing it on years of analysis of universal concepts and science. But just as he is sure that his brain will shut down like a computer, the free spirited and wistful circuitry in my over-sized noggin lends itself to something else entirely –
I guess you can say I believe in fairytales. But I don’t think I’m afraid of the dark. Not the dark Hawking speaks of anyway.
My continued struggle with faith is that with so many believers walking the earth – of many different faiths – it seems to me that the world should be different. Most of the major faiths have love as a central virtue, and yet has our planet ever felt more rude? More hateful? So lacking in respect for others in similarity or in difference?
At T@rget the other day I saw a tiny pink onesie for a baby. This sweet t-shirt, that an innocent baby would wear, said “My mom doesn’t want your advice.” In the parking lot I was next to a huge pick up truck with a huge sticker across the back showing a cartoon child urinating on the logo for I guess a competing truck line? Seriously? And then, on the radio I hear talking heads from the left and the right spewing lies and exaggerations that are going to make a compromise on this debt ceiling issue virtually impossible. And if they were so concerned about the elderly and disabled getting their social security checks next month, I can’t help but think they would stop stirring the listening public into a “my way or the highway” frenzy.
Now that is darkness. That is the kind of darkness that scares me.
And so I like to escape. I like to read a good book. I like to go with close friends to the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie. I have to escape because when I really take a good look at the darkness that encompasses our culture, it can be too much to bear. Or bare. I’m not sure which.
I completely understand why non-believers judge the religious so harshly. If we were doing what we should, we would be working to create the Kingdom of God here on earth, and not just sitting back and waiting to die, hoping upon hope for that ultimate of all fairytales to be true for us.
If we were doing what we should, heaven wouldn’t matter so much to us because we would be trying to make earth a little bit more like heaven is in our wildest dreams. But that would mean more love and less hate.
In one of the Harry Potter film adaptations, the character Neville says,
Dumbledore’s army was supposed to be about doing something real. Or was that all just words to you?
Being a Christian was supposed to be about doing something real. Or is that all just words for me?